NANKANA Sahib - Sikh pilgrims from various parts of the world, including India, Canada, UK and inside the country, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, reached Nankana Sahib to take part in Baba Guru Nanak’s 549th birth anniversary celebrations at main Palki procession on Saturday.

Parveen Kaur, 80, who lives in London and came along with her daughter and daughter-in-law told The Nation that she was born in Narowal. “I went to London where I spent most of my life’s time. This is my first visit to Gurdwara Janam Asthan and my experience has been wonderful and memorable,” she said.

According to Sikh rituals, all the pilgrims wash their feet before entering Janam Asthan. Sikh girls from Peer Baba, Swat, were wearing religious attires for Guru Nanak’s birthday celebrations.

15-year-old Vejeta Kaur from Swat visited Nankana Sahib for the first time. “Coming here and representing the peace and harmony that is the hallmark of the culture of Swat is something that I am very proud of,” Vejeta said.

Ram Chand who came from Buner said they want Sikh girls to wear their region’s dresses. “The orange-coloured dresses are religious symbols of Sikhs. It is a lifetime experience and one must not miss it, “he said.

Jatha Singh Harri of village Mehal Khurdo, tehsil Mehal Kala of district Barnala, India, said Sikhs have built a mosque for 10 Muslim families in their village. He praised Pakistan's arrangements for yatrees, stating they have won their hearts. “My family lives in Australia and Canada, but I have asked my children to love Pakistan as Baba Guru Nanak was born here,” Jatha Singh said.

On the occasion, Khalistan Referendum 2020 banners could be seen on all walls of Janam Asthan along with pictures of Bhindranwala Singh who was killed during 1984 the Operation Blue Star carried out at Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Indian army.

A number of stalls selling bangles, ready-to-wear clothes, ice cream and souvenirs had been set up. Free medical camps and stalls giving away bottled water had been set up for the pilgrims. A jalebi stall was seen as a centre of attraction.

The Palki procession which is also called Nagar Kirtan with Garanth Sahib started its journey from Gurdwara Janam Asthan and, passing through Paiti Sahib, Palia Sahib, Tambu Sahib, Panjhvin Padshahi, Chehnvin Padshahi, Salji Sahib and Giyara Sahib gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib, concluded at the main religious ceremony.

Group leader Sardar Gurmeet Singh said the Sikh pilgrims always bring message of peace, friendship and harmony to Pakistan and receive very friendly response from the people here. “Pakistan is the land of Sikh Gurus, so Sikhs love this land promote Sikh-Muslim friendship,” he said.

Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Siddiq-u-Farooq, addressing the main ceremony at Guru Nanak Janam Asthan, said the founder of the Sikh religion gave the message of peace. He told Sikhs from all over the world that the government will cooperate in establishment of a Guru Nanak university in the city, adding a committee has been formed under Birjees Tahir as its chairman in this regard.

The ETPB Chairman said more residential rooms in Gurdwaras will be built. “We have established an online charity system and now anyone who wants to donate money for constructing new residential buildings can do so and the process is transparent,” he said.

MPA Ramesh Singh Arora appealed to the Sikh pilgrims coming from all over the world to convey true sentiments about Pakistan. He said minorities in Pakistan have complete freedom to practise their religion.

All the three committees of Sikhs, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC), Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Delhi and Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) of India, have sent their delegates for Baba Guru Nanak birth anniversary celebrations.

The pilgrims performing their sacred rituals will leave for Punja Sahib, Hassanabdal, on Sunday (today) and will return to Lahore on November 9. The pilgrims will leave for their respective countries on November 11.